Health Care Reform And Communism

03/21/2010 By Shawn Burns

A dramatic, hyperbolic, and tense afternoon passed in Washington today. In the end, the House passed a bill purposed to reform the health insurance industry. My favourite hyperbole of the day was the charge of communism coming from the Right, over and over, as though they were serious.


It actually makes sense that the slings designed to cause the most panicked disruption at this stage of the process would name the ghosts of enemies and abuse victims. Because who are you always afraid of? Your skeletons.

The Soviet Union is dead and gone, buried under market pressure. But the commies still want us all dead, right? And they have good reason, don’t they? We know we undermined our own principles, degraded ourselves, to be rid of them here and abroad. So even though the enemy is dead, we fear the retributive ghost.

It’s the same reasoning behind hurling racial epithets and homophobic slurs at lawmakers on their way in to debate a bill: it’s no accident that we’re afraid that the blacks and gays are out to get us, and so of course we try to intimidate, marginalize, demonize, and Other them right up until the last minute.

Back to communism: Get over it.

Maybe it’s my Canadian heritage informing my attitude here. For Canadians the USSR stopped being a threat to anything back in 1972 when Ken Dryden and Bobby Clarke led the Canadians to a dramatic victory over the Russian Red Army team in hockey’s Summit Series. See, we beat the commies; proved them mortal; ended their terrorizing reputation.

But the Americans never got their satisfactory victory over the Russians. Not even the 1980 Miracle On Ice counted, in their mind, as a real victory: because Americans don’t respect hockey the way real men do. But the Russians respect hockey, and they knew after 1972 that Canada was not to be trifled with. See, America, you had no reason to fear the Russians invading across the Bering Strait: after 1972 they would have stopped at Anchorage and quaked in their boots before trying to cross into British Columbia.

American dread of the Red Menace (truly irrational for the post Summit-Series 70’s and 80’s) continued, but with no chance at a confrontational victory the Americans resorted to telling themselves stories about defeating the enemy: Red Dawn, Rocky IV . When the Soviet Union finally collapsed inward, the only victory the Americans could claim was in fiction.

And an enemy you only defeat in your minds can just as easily return from the depths of your imagination to threaten you again.

So, Right, the next time you think to utter “communism” and you mean it seriously as a criticism of an act of American legislation, wonder to yourself if you aren’t just dreading the consequence letting yourself cry “Wolverines!!” too enthusiastically: now you fear Ivan Drago will come out of the shadows to kill Carl Weathers and promise that “You will lose.”